One of the best things you can do for your child is to establish a bedtime routine, preferably an early bed time, and then stick with it. A new study by SRI International in Menlo Park, Ca. found that preschoolers with a regular bedtime developed better language skills, phonological awareness and early math and literacy skills. The best developmental progress was seen with earlier bedtimes.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends preschoolers get a minimum of 11 hours of sleep each night. The SRI showed that getting less than this minimum can negatively impact a child’s development and academic achievement. Unfortunately, the researchers also found that many children are not getting the recommended minimum sleep time, and recommended physicians promote healthy sleep by advising parents that consistent bedtimes and sleep routines are an important step in helping a child develop fully and excel in school.
An earlier 2009 study in the journal “Sleep Medicine” found that children with a bedtime after 9:00 pm took longer to fall asleep and had a shorter sleep time. Those kids without a consistent bedtime routine also got less sleep.
If your child is used to going to bed whenever he happens to fall asleep, then setting a bedtime can be a difficult rule to enforce, and it may never be popular. However, establishing an early bedtime (it’s 8:30 at my house) with a regular routine is clearly worth the fight.